School Robot Competition: EPSRC UK-RAS Network & Twinkl launch AR app to design your own robot

National competition challenges schoolchildren to design a future Mars robot; winners will be announced at the International Robotics Showcase on 27th June

London, UK, Wednesday 27th March 2019— A robotic design competition aimed at helping schoolchildren up and down the country to hone their scientific thinking and develop their talent in engineering has been launched across the UK today. The competition is based on an augmented reality (AR) online game platform developed in exclusive partnership by educational publishers Twinkl and the EPSRC UK Robotics & Autonomous Systems Network (UK-RAS Network). The app and information packs can be downloaded from today from the School Robot Competition website: Competition entries close on 14th June 2019.

The School Robot Competition invites children aged between 8 and 14 (upper KS2-KS3) to design a robot that can move across Mars and complete various tasks and challenges on the planet’s unique surface. Through building robots, schoolchildren will acquire robotic technology fundamentals and research skills, and be given the opportunity to demonstrate their creativity and learn the joy of engineering.

The competition is one of a series of activities taking place as part of UK Robotics Week, organised annually in the last week of June (24th – 27th June 2019) by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network. Competition winners will be announced at the International Robotics Showcase – the highlight event of UK Robotics Week – to be held at the Royal Geographical Society in London on Thursday 27th June 2019. The competition winners will receive a range of unique prizes, from an all-expense paid trip to London to the latest iPad Pro/Apple Pencil, or the MiRo-E Robot for team entries. MiRo-E is an advanced AI robot adapted for education with robust hardware and a specialised programming interface to facilitate students coding.

The School Robot Competition AR platform – which is also available as an app from the Apple App Store and Google Play – offers a range of components to build, program and test robot designs, spanning:

– ‘build mode’ – connecting sensors and motors to a base block

– ‘program mode’ – inputting coding to determine how the robot moves

– ‘play mode’ – testing the robot’s ability to complete various challenges on Mars

Chief Technology Officer for Twinkl Pete Casson said: “Twinkl was set the challenge by the EPSRC UK-RAS Network of inspiring children to become science and technology leaders – a challenge that we’re already well-versed in. Our solution was to use our world-first AR technology to bring coding and robotics to schoolchildren in a way that puts collaboration and communication first. Our latest app achieves these goals on an inclusive platform that is accessible to all learners – building confidence in those looking to learn whilst challenging children with skills to showcase.”

Commenting on the School Robot Competition and app launch, Professor Guang-Zhong Yang PhD, FREng, Chair of the EPSRC UK-RAS Network, added: “This partnership between Twinkl and the EPSRC UK-RAS Network has delivered a fantastic AR platform that will enable schoolchildren to develop important STEM capabilities in programming, debugging, engineering and the fundamentals of robotics development. However, this competition aims to do more than develop STEM skills – it aims to develop confidence, communication, cooperation and leaderships skills, and to inspire schoolchildren as science and technology leaders as well as innovators of the future.”